We recently covered that the Senate is proposing that the FCC redefine what “broadband” means when it comes to the speed a customer is getting. The point of this is to help usher us forward into a technologically competitive and evolved age and not be stuck within the definitions and limitations of the past (some of which go back to the beginning of broadband).
We will never evolve forward if we spend all of our time clinging to the past. So we have to continuously reevaluate what we define as “modern” in order to stay ahead. However, not all companies are dedicated to bringing you the best service and experience they can. Some companies are perfectly fine with clinging to the past because it is more profitable and it allows them to enhance their efforts at a trickle speed.
AT&T is one of those companies, which doesn’t come as a surprise. The company is notorious for providing as little as they can for as much as they can charge for it. Kind of a popular business strategy for a lot of companies out there in various markets these days. One example comes from one of our own colleagues here who had jumped ship from AT&T over to T-Mobile because of just that.
The company argues against the Senate’s proposal in every way it can, claiming that current minimum requirements for software and services (ie, Zoom) show that keeping speeds as low as they can still works out just fine as a strategy. That the American people don’t “need” anything more than the bare minimum.
AT&T points out that Zoom’s requirements state that the minimum for its service (for example) is “1 Mbps up / 600 kbps down”, thus offering an upload of 1-3Mbps passes just fine as “broadband”. However, they don’t point out that using Zoom on such a connection will feel like you are videoconferencing on a connection you had 10+ years ago. The latency between audio and video, grainy/fuzzy images, and loss of connection during larger calls may exist at speeds this low. Perfectly acceptable 10+ years ago when companies were just trying to push into the realm of video conferencing. Heck, we have been trying to push into it for the last 20 years through messaging apps and solutions like Skype.
AT&T points out that it would be more expensive to the customers as it would force the company to raise the bills for these services. This is partially true and partially a bluff if you look at the majority of fiber users across the country that already have these more modern services/speeds thanks to companies like Google who have been pushing for fiber already. In some cases, the monthly bills for these accounts could be a little more than certain cities/towns, yet are about the same as other areas that already have competitive networks (usually major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, etc). This is why so many customers are jumping on the opportunity to have fiber. It isn’t as expensive as people think in many cases.
Companies like AT&T just love to use raising costs as a scare tactic in these situations. They also like implementing them anyway regardless of what happens. It is all about satisfying the shareholders after all. They also like taking their time when it comes to upgrades and in some cases only rolling them out when they are absolutely forced to by the competition or the local governments (the latter usually due to broken or late promises).
As we move forward and progress with technology, we need to make sure the backbone that drives it all remains current as well. Else we are going to bottleneck, which will slow progression down everywhere else. It isn’t just the move toward technologies like 4K that affects these speed requirements (for an example). It is the fact that we are already moving toward 8K in certain areas and it won’t be long before we move to the next bit upgrade in resolution. Each time requiring more and more bandwidth to make it all possible.
Plus, these companies don’t have to agree with the Senate or the FCC (if they decide to side with the Senate on this). These proposals don’t “absolutely” force these companies into expanding or upgrading their networks to modern speeds. It is simply spelling out how they can define what they are selling to the customer. AT&T can choose to remain as they are. They just wouldn’t be able to market it as “broadband”, nor would they get the proposed federal funding to help expand their networks. They can choose to move forward, or choose to be left behind. This is what healthy competition is all about. A constant battle to provide the best.
Co-Authors: James H.